The Madhya Pradesh Police on Thursday said they rescued three men from being lynched by a mob that suspected them of being child lifters assaulted them in Hanumanganj area in Bhopal, PTI reported. The men, reportedly under the influence of alcohol, were trying to help a boy cross the road.

Inspector Sudesh Tiwari said police personnel rescued the men from a group of around 15 people. “The three men, Dhan Singh, Ram Swaroop Sen and Dashrath Ahirwar, were under the influence of alcohol and were trying to help a boy who was too scared to cross a road near Futa Makabara Square,” Tiwari told the news agency.

Mistaking their attempts as a kidnapping attempt, passersby started yelling “bachcha chor” (child thief) to alert others in the area, following which the mob started assaulting the men, the official said. “We managed to reach in time and save them,” Tiwari said. “The three are from Vidisha district and were in the area to purchase an autorickshaw. A medical examination has revealed that they had consumed alcohol. They did not receive major injuries.”

On July 19, a mob lynched a woman in Morwa because they suspected her to be a “child lifter”. The woman reportedly suffered from a mental illness.

A spate of mob lynchings has claimed several lives in Maharashtra, Tripura, Assam, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal and Karnataka since March. In nearly all cases, the mobs seem to have been incited by widely shared WhatsApp videos and messages asking people to beware of child kidnappers. The victims have ranged from innocent people asking for directions; transgendered people; the poor; and the mentally disturbed. The police have since started outreach programmes to quell fake news.